The University of Central Arkansas announced in a news release late Monday afternoon that men’s basketball Coach Russ Pennell is taking an indefinite leave of absence due to personal reasons. Associate head coach Anthony Boone, a longtime assistant and former player under Pennell, will step in as the Bears' interim head coach.
UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday that Pennell informed him Friday that he wanted to take a leave of absence. UCA fell to Pepperdine 92-79 on Saturday night in Malibu, Calif., but Pennell did not coach in that game. It’s the only game Pennell has missed this season.
Teague was unsure if Pennell will be back this season.
Earlier Monday, Jeff Goodman, a prominent College Basketball Insider for Stadium, reported that UCA had parted ways with Pennell. Teague later informed the Democrat-Gazette that report was not true and that Pennell was still with UCA but taking a leave of absence. In a text to the Democrat-Gazette on Monday, Pennell said he had not been dismissed.
Pennell, who’s in his sixth season at UCA, has led the Bears to a 1-9 start, their lone win coming against Hendrix College on Nov. 7. Through 10 games, UCA has played a daunting schedule, which included road contests at No. 10 Baylor, Georgetown, No. 4 Duke, Wichita State and Utah. Wichita State and Georgetown are each currently receiving AP Top 25 votes.
The Bears host Incarnate Word on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in Conway for the Southland Conference opener.
UCA has played its last five games without junior point guard DeAndre Jones, who underwent surgery late last month for a high-ankle sprain. Pennell told the Democrat-Gazette recently it was the same procedure that University of Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa notably underwent twice.
Pennell is 50-117 overall and 32-57 in Southland play in six seasons at UCA. The Bears have made the postseason once, a quarterfinals appearance in the 2018 College Basketball Invitational.